Publishing Open Goverment Data

by Francisco J Lopez-Pellicer

I’ve have just re-read the W3C Working Draft Publising Open Government Data. It’s abstract is compelling:

Every day, governments and government agencies publish more data on the Internet. Sharing this data enables greater transparency; delivers more efficient public services; and encourages greater public and commercial use and re-use of government information.

Publish and sharing implies clients that access and integrate data. In the Geo world this is enabled by Spatial Data Infrastructure (SDI):

There is a clear need, at all scales, to be able to access, integrate and use spatial data from disparate sources in guiding decision making. Our ability then, to make sound decisions collectively at the local, regional, and global levels, is dependent on the implementation of SDI that provides for compatibility across jurisdictions that promotes data access and use (Douglas Nebert, The SDI Cookbook).

However, the approach behind the W3C draft is quite straighforward:

  • Publish the data in its raw form (XML, RDF, CSV). Formats that allow data to be seen but not extracted are not useful for this approach.
  • Create an online catalog of the raw data (complete with documentation) so people can discover what has been posted.
  • Make the data both human- and machine-readable. That is, use XHTML, RDFa, content negotiation, “cool uris”…

The intended purpose of this approach is allow third parties to create and develop new interfaces to the data that may not be obvious (even absurd) to the data providers. The publication of the data should be separated from the interfaces, enabling mashup developers, data integrators, data crawlers … access to the raw data.

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